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The Last Laugh for Los Angeles: The Great Comic Exodus of 2020

A one-time comedy mecca of the world, 2020 has turned Los Angeles into a skeleton of its former self. Some of the most talented comedians in the game have decided to uproot their careers from L.A. and seek new opportunities in places like Phoenix, Texas and Tennessee. Our exclusive look at The Great Comic Exodus of 2020 is inside.
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What is Los Angeles without comedy?

L.A. was once a mecca where improv fans, aspiring stand-up comedians, and hopeful actors and actresses could go to try for their big break. Yes, the apartments are incredibly expensive and yes, the public transportation is completely lackluster.

Of course, the traffic is infamously terrible and indeed, it’s true, the growing homeless population there amid the coronavirus pandemic is complicating matters further.

None of that mattered when you had hope that one day, you might get to be a part of the notoriously fun, challenging, and mostly supportive comedy scene in L.A. But at the drop of a hat, that dream has turned into a near-impossibility.

At the time of writing, to date, Los Angeles County (including Long Beach and Pasadena health departments) has had over 260,797 coronavirus patients out of over 788,000 total in the state. The county has also seen about 6,353 deaths to date.

With strict lockdown rules throughout the city, it begs the question: Why would any comedian stay?

Some of the most famous clubs in Los Angeles for performing and watching comedy are either completely closed or open with major restrictions. These include:

  • The Comedy Store in West Hollywood – currently open as a restaurant with social distancing and masks required
  • The Laugh Factory in Hollywood – currently streaming live comedy shows with no more than five people in the room, including those on stage
  • The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre on Franklin – offering online courses only
  • The Groundlings Theatre & School on Melrose – offering online classes and shows only

There is a massive exodus of comedians happening right now in Los Angeles, and it has the potential to change the future of comedy in the United States forever. Some of the best comics in the game are dispersing across the country. Around the nation they go, and where the next comedy mecca will develop, no one knows.

Joe Rogan wants to start a new comedy club in Austin, Texas

One of the most high-profile names in comedy (and one of the first to make the move from L.A.) is Joe Rogan, who revealed earlier in the summer that he is soon moving his family to Austin, TX. The news came shortly after Rogan signed a massive licensing deal with Spotify for his wildly popular podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience” (JRE).

Some fans applauded Rogan for moving to a state that boasts no personal income tax, while others roasted the host. But after years of living in L.A., he’s sick of paying for it.

That’s not to say he won’t miss the place that helped launch his career into the stratosphere. Joe Rogan had a very long tenure as a headliner at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, also known simply as “the Store.” He talks about it with great love and affection – but as even the Store is unable to hold audiences at maximum capacity, he feels it’s time for him to leave.

Rogan has discussed his motivations for leaving L.A. at length with several different folks on his podcast.

On Episode #1525 of JRE, Rogan hosted comedian Tim Dillon. The episode was released on August 14, and at the time of writing has over 4.1 million views on YouTube. During the conversation, Rogan discusses his plans to start a comedy club near his new home in Austin.

Brian Redban suggests he and Tony Hinchcliffe might soon move to Austin as well

Reddit / redban

Brian Redban suggested on Reddit on the evening of September 9 that he and comedian Tony Hinchcliffe will also move to Austin.

Tony Hinchcliffe hosts an incredible live podcast called “Kill Tony” along with Redban. They have managed to keep the energy of the show alive at the Comedy Store even with its limited audience.

Update: Hinchcliffe confirmed in September of 2020 that he and Redban would be relocating to Texas. The stars of “Kill Tony” – sans their original and beloved band (AKA “The Best Damn Band in the Land”), have continued their live shows on Monday nights at Antone’s Nightclub in Austin.

Joey Diaz is heading back to New Jersey

57-year-old Joey Diaz and his co-host of “The Church of What’s Happening Now,” Lee Syatt, have decided to end their podcast after eight years.

Diaz was born in Havana, Cuba, but he has gone back to where he grew up in New Jersey to raise his daughter. Lee will be heading to Milwaukee.

Diaz arrived in Los Angeles to start his stand-up career in 1995. Nearly 25 years later, he feels it’s time to depart, mainly attributing the move to the chaos that covid-19 has brought to the city.

Duncan Trussell, psychedelic adventurer, is not loving lockdown

Duncan Trussell, comedian, host of “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour” podcast and co-creator of “The Midnight Gospel” on Netflix is trading L.A. for Phoenix, AZ.

Trussell, a close friend and former roommate of Joe Rogan, definitely feels Los Angeles is too expensive, especially when there are few comedy spots to be had. The 46-year-old and his wife also have children, likely making the decision to leave the expensive city even easier.

Theo Von plans to be ‘bicoastal’ in Los Angeles and Nashville

On Episode #097 of “Whiskey Ginger,” a podcast hosted by 36-year-old comedian Andrew “Cheeto” Santino, he speaks with Theo Von, a comedian who was born and raised in Louisiana. The episode aired on August 28.

40-year-old Von has lived in Los Angeles for several years. He got his career started when he was discovered in a casting call for MTV’s “Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour” in 2000. He also has his own podcast called “This Past Weekend,” as well as a joint podcast with Brendan Schaub called “The King and the Sting.”

Recently, however, Von was apparently looking for “spots” in Nashville. Not comedy spots – living spots. Santino asked him how it went.

“It’s awesome, man. I love it. It’s beautiful out there,” Von said. “You can be, like, nine minutes outside of the dead center of downtown, and you’re in an amazing area.”

‘The creativity Los Angeles thinks it has, it doesn’t really have’

Santino continues to say that suburban Nashville is “beautiful.”

Von agreed, adding, “everyone was just nice, and the energy was just good. I had a good time. So I found a spot that I think could be a studio there, and I’m thinking about doing the bicoastal thing.”

Von says he’d like to keep his Los Angeles apartment and studio, but stay in Nashville “about 60% of the month.”

“It just feels like an adventure,” Von told Santino. “It definitely scares me a little bit. You know, I start feeling less creative here. Sometimes the creativity that Los Angeles thinks it has, it doesn’t really have. I feel like it’s starting to become evident to my instincts. I don’t know if it spurns the best me out of me sometimes, to just be, you know, set here…People are saying it could be 2022 before [stand up returns].”

“That’s likely, unfortunately,” Santino replied.

Tim Dillon: ‘I’m like a man without a country’

Tim Dillon recently moved to Los Angeles from New York City to try the stand-up scene on the West Coast. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to explore it.

Now that the pandemic has shut down most comedy clubs, Dillon has decided to move to Palm Springs, which is about an hour and forty-five minutes southeast of Los Angeles. He plans to live there until he figures out what’s going to happen next.

“I just got out there, and I’m like, ‘I f***ing love it out here!'” Dillon said to Joe Rogan on the previously mentioned episode of JRE. “It’s just quiet…and then I just said to myself, ‘If I’m not at the Store, and I’m not doing anything, I can drive in [to Los Angeles] to do podcasts.'”

Dillon added, “I came here to do stand up comedy. I came here to create things. I didn’t come here to be a surfer, I didn’t come here to do yoga, I didn’t come here to join a cult. I’m an East Coast guy. What are you gonna do? I can’t move back to New York…so, I’m staying [in Palm Springs] until December, until the holidays, and then I’ll figure out – you know, who knows? We’ll see what’s happening in the world.”

He also told Joe that he finds Texas “interesting,” but made no promises.

“L.A. is very weird because you’re like, ‘Where do I fit in?’ Without standup comedy, I podcast, and that’s good – I try to make that as funny as I can. But then you look around at a lot places in L.A. – I don’t really fit in with the actors, and I’m not really one of these kids that’s like a social media guy…My community of people, which was the Store and standup comedians, have now dispersed. So I’m like a man without a country.”

Update: As of February 2021, Dillon and his producer, Ben, have both moved near Austin, TX, where they continue to produce Dillon’s popular podcast, “The Tim Dillon Show.”

Some comics are staying – but for how long?

Bert Kreischer discussed the possibility of relocating to either Wyoming, Florida, or Texas on his podcast with comedian Tom Segura, “2 Bears 1 Cave,” but he noted that his wife and children wouldn’t want to move. Meanwhile, Segura and his wife, comedian Christina P., have moved their family near Austin.

Bert Kreischer has been touring the country doing drive-in shows, and it seems to be going well for him. Many other comics like Nate Bargatze are following suit, and it’s likely this will be the only viable option for stand-up comedians to earn a living (except online) for a while.

There are comics standing up for the city, like California native Moshe Kasher. Kasher was born and raised in Oakland, but now resides in Los Angeles with his wife and fellow comedian Natasha Leggero (fun fact: Leggero was once briefly married to Duncan Trussell).

Kasher posts many gorgeous pictures of the L.A. beaches and desert, and times spent vacationing with his wife and baby daughter. “California rules,” he said in a comment on one of his Instagram photos in which he satirically blasts the city.

In some ways, maybe Kasher is right to make fun of this sudden dispersion of his peers. But the second part of his caption, there’s nothing left here, feels eerily prophetic when it comes to the comedy world.